Sam has been watching a lot of TV since she’s been sick. Normally, I like to let Sam watch videos and TV in moderation. It can be a nice break in an active day and it is true that sometimes I just need the electronic babysitter. I try to avoid letting her watch TV for longer than 20 minutes or on two consecutive days. Twenty minutes is a long time for a toddler, and I’ve noticed that kids who don’t watch TV daily don’t ask for it much. When it’s not part of the daily routine, it remains a treat. It’s not a big issue in our house either way.
Since we watch so little children’s TV I don’t know much about the shows most kids watch. We tried Dora but I found it absurd for Sam’s age. How can a two-year-old relate to a girl running around solving mysteries and a computer-icon arrow clicking around the screen as a pointer? The attempt at interaction is just stupid. TV is not interactive and having cartoon characters ask questions and pause for answers is just a way to rationalize letting kids veg out in front of the TV instead of spending real time with them. (Don’t you just love Noggin’s claim that it is “like preschool on TV.” Ha!) There are also some high-energy, musical-type shows, but just because toddlers are little balls of energy doesn’t mean they need to watch a frenetic show. As I’ve written before, Sam and I like to watch Sesame Street, but our favorite show by far is Little Bear. If I try to get Sam to watch anything else, she begs for Little Bear. She loves it almost as much as she loves our cat, Jinx, and that’s saying a lot!
Little Bear is such a great show that I think it is positively healthy for Sam to watch. Little Bear is a sweet character, the stories are short and benevolent, and the orchestral music is beautiful. As the website says, “the series celebrates the playful and sometimes enchanted aspects of the everyday activities and important moments in a pre-schooler’s life.” Little Bear cooks with his Mother Bear, wrestles with his Father Bear, and makes up songs with his friends. The characters treat each other with respect and speak slowly and clearly. There is never a pedantic “message.” There is no multiculturalism and no environmentalism. It’s the only children’s show that has never offended me.
This does not mean it is vapid, though. Little Bear solves problems, uses his imagination, and deals with troubling situations. In one episode, he breaks the record player on the day of his grandparents’ anniversary, so he and his friends form a band to make music for the party. In another, one of his friends sits on a doll and they all decide the doll has “died” and throw a funeral for her. In the episode we watched today, Little Bear enjoys the colorful fallen leaves of autumn and makes a scary mask out of them. He playfully scares his parents and all his friends with it. Most children’s stories would use this as an opportunity to ”teach” the lesson that it is not good to scare people – somebody would inevitably get hurt and the naughty child would see the error of his ways. Little Bear’s friends all have a good laugh and join in the innocent fun. In the end, though, they tire of the game, and Little Bear gives his mask away “to a friend;” he lets it blow away on the wind.
I’m not sure how long this show will appeal to Sam, but I’m hoping for years. I’m going to have a hard time weaning myself off of it this week as we return to our normal routine. Little Bear will be a part of Sam’s toddlerhood that I always remember fondly.